Approximately three years ago, photographer David Slater became a viral sensation when a black-crested macaque monkey snagged one of his Canon DSLR cameras and started checking out the reflection in the lens. At the same time, the primate was unwittingly snapping selfies, a few of which came out crystal clear and were quite entertaining to the public. The monkey was also able to snag a clear shot of Slater attempting to retrieve the expensive camera equipment in the jungle (as seen above).
One of the photos taken by the monkey was uploaded to Wikimedia, the team that manages Wikipedia. The photo resides in Wikimedia Commons, a photo repository that offers more than 22 million royalty-free photos and videos for people to use on the Web.
After Slater noticed the photo on Wikimedia, he requested that the photo be taken down since he was claiming the copyright on the photo. However, Wikimedia denied the request claiming that no copyright exists because Slater didn’t actually take the photo.
Specifically, a Wikimedia representative wrote “This file is in the public domain, because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”
Speaking about the disagreement in an interview, Slater said “It’s all based on a technicality. I own the photo but because the monkey pressed the trigger and took the photo, they’re claiming the monkey owns the copyright. There’s a lot more to copyright than who pushes the trigger on the camera. I set up the shot, I was behind all the components in taking that image.
Slater continued “The problem is they’re telling people it’s free to use because it’s in the public domain, they even have a link for people to download the high-res, so they’re actively encouraging people to use it however they like.”
Slater hasn’t decided if he will take legal action against Wikimedia, but has contacted a lawyer in the United States that is willing to move ahead with the case. According to Wikimedia, the company received 58 takedown requests related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act over a two year period and granted a bit over 40 percent of those requests.
[Photo credit: David J. Slater]